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Ken Auretta's Book Review of Hollywood Endings: Harvey Weinstein and the Culture of Silence

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An earlier version of this review incorrectly stated the title of Ronan Farrow’s book as “Catch and Kill: Conspiracies Against Lies, Spies, and Predators.” The correct title is “Catch and Kill: Lies, Spies and Conspiracies to Protect Predators”. This version has been fixed.

In horror movies, monsters are (almost) raised from the dead and have a final terror. You can be forgiven for feeling the same way about books and articles about Harvey Weinstein. It’s one wonder what you get out of reading another thousand or 100,000 words about studio execs, slashers, and sexual predators who rape and otherwise assault. is more than 100 women between the 1970s and 2010s? His crimes are often featured in newspaper and magazine articles, and books by the journalists behind those exposures, not to mention multiple podcasts and documentaries. , insofar as it puts off his obsolescence, it has undoubtedly served his core desires of fame and influence. I was. As Teen Vogue’s Sandra Song put it, “When we focus on murderers, their neuroses, their troubled pasts, the victims of these crimes are also human. Ignore the facts.” Ken Oretta certainly isn’t ignoring the victims of “Hollywood Ending: Harvey Weinstein and the Culture of Silence.” This is his new biography of the former film producer who is currently serving 23 years in prison. But in searching for Weinstein’s “rosebuds,” Oretta exaggerates the megalomaniacal mogul (by likening his megalomaniacs to “citizen Kane”) and makes a cultural statement about the perpetrators and what drives him. Spread the conversation.

As a biography, “Hollywood Ending” focuses more on Weinstein himself than on issues of sexual misconduct and professional blackmail. “She Said: Breaking the Sexual Harassment Story That Helped Initiation a Movement” by Jodi Kantor and Megan Twohey and “Catch and Kill: Lies, Spies, and a Conpiracy to Protect Predators” by Ronan Farrow. These books explain how the journalists who spread the story of Weinstein’s serial abuse in 2017 reported it for The New York Times and The New Yorker, respectively. Ultimately exposing Weinstein, leading to his arrest, conviction, and imprisonment. Kanter, Toohy, and Farrow focus on the survivors of the attack and their bravery in exposing predators. In particular, these authors contextualize Weinstein’s downfall within the #MeToo movement.

Oretta, by contrast, zooms out from the 2017 revelations about Weinstein to identify the producer’s other victims. The employees he bullied, the businesses he exploited, his partners, the brothers he despised. Oretta also explores Weinstein’s childhood and early adulthood, uncovering factors that may have played a role in the mogul’s criminal activities. Was it his angry and overbearing mother? Growing up to be, as Weinstein himself puts it, “poor, ugly and Jewish”, always an outsider and an underdog (a position Weinstein obviously accepted as well)? who cares? As anyone who’s ever seen a horror movie knows, after-the-fact explanations of monster pathologies miss the point. A revelation about Norman Bates’ terrible childhood at the end of “Psycho” does nothing to help Marion Crane, the victim of Bates’ murderous “shower scene” attack. Nor does it prevent the Normans from attacking future Marions, nor does it teach women how to avoid the Normans altogether.

As with all Oretta’s works, the “Hollywood Ending” Thoroughly researched and highly readable. Auletta is a highly skilled journalist whose ability to assemble a compelling narrative from multiple sources allows her to create balanced characters and juicy prose. A prime example is Weinstein’s unwavering, Shakespearean-worthy relationship with his brother, Bob Weinstein, which has gone from an impregnable partnership to screaming matches, stony estrangement and, at least once, a bloody affair. Bob co-founded Miramax and The Weinstein Company with Harvey, initially sharing Harvey’s capricious temper and verbal abusive tendencies. But over the course of “Hollywood Ending,” Bob Weinstein emerges as a symbol of redemption. Bob also once abused staff and even paid a settlement to some of Harvey’s victims (ostensibly unaware that their allegations involved assault). From 2004 onwards, he tried to guide his brother in his addiction recovery. , indicating that rehabilitation is possible and that Harvey could have changed but did not.

By exploring Harvey’s relationship with his brother and other men, Auretta humanizes the monster and makes him feel that his approach is fundamentally wrong. A 2002 profile in The New Yorker failed to expose Weinstein’s sexual predation. I applaud you for breaking the Yet “Hollywood Ending” continues to highlight the same bullying behavior Auretta uncovered in his 2002. Tantrums, verbal abuse of staff and co-workers, wasteful eating, smoking and waste. Perhaps this is the Harvey his Auletta knows best, or maybe Auletta is quietly reaffirming the importance of his 2002 profile and the revelations it contains. .

In any case, why should we care about Weinstein’s corporate power struggles, such as whether Weinstein wasn’t subservient to Michael Eisner after Disney bought Miramax in 1993? I was thinking Miramax may not have made as much money for Disney as the Weinstein brothers claimed, and Harvey may have refused to acknowledge Eisner as his boss. But budget bankruptcy and despotic arrogance are less serious crimes than rape and sexual assault, and “Hollywood Ending” implicitly conflates them. In the 28-page chapter on “The Culture of Silence” that protected Stein, Auletta devotes just eight pages to sex crimes. 20 other inventory of Miramax’s successes in ‘Pulp Fiction’, ‘Sling Blade’, ‘The Piano’ and ‘Scream’. Oretta proposes that those successes were the reason Weinstein’s contemporaries protected him, but in devoting more pages to Weinstein’s commerce than to his victims, the author , perpetuating a value system that values ​​art above those hurt by artists. They should not have started a campaign, forcefully kissed, stripped, or molested actresses and employees. However, these crimes are not commensurate, and Oretta, in her haste to document all of Weinstein’s inappropriate behavior, suggests, albeit carelessly, that they are.

“Hollywood Ending” is an elaborate biography of an infamous sexual predator. It’s not a lewd book, but it never questioned its approach to its subject. Like most true crime reports, it exists because women suffer. But its main topic isn’t the survivors who ended the monster’s reign of terror, nor the noble reporters and prosecutors. It’s still a monster. I’m not convinced that getting to know Weinstein better helps women “get any power over culturally endemic narratives in which girls and women are brutalized.” This is the general rationale for the genre that Tanya Horek refers to in her book Justice On Demand: True Crime. in the age of digital streaming. So if you’re interested in how power is accumulated and misused in the U.S. film industry, read “Hollywood Endings.” But don’t read expecting answers about sexual assault or how to stop it. Monsters don’t teach you anything.

Caetlin Benson-Allott is Professor of English, Film and Media Studies at Georgetown University andAudience Elements: The Material Culture of Film and Television

Harvey Weinstein and the Culture of Silence

penguin press. 466 pages $30